You and your spouse have decided to end your marriage. You may know something about the divorce process from your cousin, co-worker or best friend. Nonetheless, everyone’s situation is different. The first thing you and your spouse have to do is decide if you want to “do it yourself”. The legal term for this is “pro se”, literally “for yourself”. This can be a good choice if you can come to a fair division of property and agree on decisions for care of your children. Unfortunately, that’s not often easily done. Lots of problems can arise:

• Child-support payments can be miscalculated

• Disposition of major assets such as a family home can be handled unfairly

• Decisions about education and health care for children can lead to ongoing disputes

• The contributions of each spouse to the marriage can be reckoned unfairly.

• What is the worth of a stay-at-home father who makes it possible for his wife to earn an advanced degree and then maintain a professional career?

• It can be difficult to establish the present value of assets such as pensions and retirement plans. I

t’s sad when people come to see me after making mistakes like these. It’s much easier to work with an attorney from the start. Interviewing and choosing an attorney is a little like speed dating. Don’t feel pressured to pick the first attorney you talk to. Take time to find the right one and seek to have a good fit. You and your divorce attorney will spend a lot of time together over the months or years it will take to get a divorce.

There are a lot of ways to look for a divorce attorney – referrals and the Internet are the most common. Make appointments to discuss your divorce with at least three attorneys and decide which one matches your needs and personality the best. Consider how each attorney’s staff interacts with you as well; you’ll work closely with secretaries, paralegals, and other professionals before you are done.

Once you have chosen an attorney, you’re not done. There are different ways to get divorced. These are:

• The traditional “fight it out” in court with attorneys.

• Mediation

• Collaborative Divorce

For more information, http://www.massclc.org/

There is no typical divorce either. Every marriage has special circumstances that must be addressed. One of the hardest situations to work through is when a disabled child is involved. One of the other areas I focus on is special education law. Therefore I am aware of some of the trouble spots for families with disabled children. Next, you have to get your finances together. Instead of running one household you will now be running two. The courts care about your finances because the parents are still financially responsible for the children. You can expect to provide up to three years of tax records, bank statements, and pay records. The court will want to assure that children are properly provided-for and that neither side ends up destitute.

To see how the courts figure your finances and child support go to: http://www.mass.gov/courts/courtsandjudges/courts/probateandfamilycourt/forms.html#divorce

There you will find the financial forms the court requires you to fill out and the guidelines for figuring out child support.

Massachusetts has enacted “The Alimony Reform Act of 2011”. It substantially changed the way alimony is awarded. Most notably, the amount of alimony is subject to specific limits based on income and length of marriage. Gone are the days when alimony was awarded for life, even after a brief marriage. And alimony can be terminated if the recipient moves in with a new partner, even if they do not marry.

If you are worried about the cost of divorce, ask your attorney. Lawyers have traditionally charged by the hour. Everything about an attorney’s fees can be negotiated; sometimes even flat-fee arrangements are possible. Lawyers compete with one another on both price and quality and a good attorney will welcome an honest discussion about fees upfront. Of course, in considering fees, the lowest price isn’t always the best value. Again a good attorney will discuss your specific situation with empathy. Call or email for an appointment for a consult.